The time is finally upon us. It’s what MLS fans, and New York soccer fans have been yearning for, the commencement of a new Major League Soccer season. For the first time ever a New York Based team will be playing out of an N.Y.C. borough as a representative of the MLS. The emerging franchise New York City Football Club, born of iconic parents is set to play in their first professional season, and prove their worth.
Set to kickoff against another emergent team in Orlando City S.C., the anticipation is palpable. Both teams want this win badly. Both supporters section are chomping at the bit. Both are looking for a good start to the season. Both sides are hoping to induct their franchise with a win in their first game. The preparation has been a long process. “What starts well, ends well.” Here’s to exceeding expectations.
The preseason road was a good test for New York City. Playing entirely on the road against homegrown teams, as well as product from overseas. NYCFC has, over the course of this prep period, worked out kinks, and evaluated their skill. The players have united during the preseason to prepare for the task ahead, and to represent a city deserving of greatness.
The beginning of training camp took place in Jacksonville Florida, and saw the likes of unsigned free agents, running drills alongside international icons. Early indications were that Coach Jason Kreis wanted to focus on fitness, and cohesion as the team was just gaining their sea legs. Controversies, and misguidance aside the team worked, and prepared in order to meet opposition from across the pond.
Taking a trip to Manchester, England, NYCFC faced off against Scottish Premiership’s St. Mirren F.C. in their first match in franchise history. The young team was stout, lead by Captain David Villa, who subsequently scored the franchise’s first ever goal. A historic goal, and moment for NYCFC was supported by a performance that was infused with possession football, and intelligent defense.
Finishing the match with a 2-0 victory, NYCFC continued to build on their fundamentals, and technique. Despite the positive start, the following friendly set against Danish Superliga representative Brondby I.F. tested the evolving squad who fell 0-2. The loss exposed faults that needed to be improved upon, and allowed Coach Kreis to better understand,and tinker with the lineup.
Finishing preparations at the Manchester City F.C. facilities, NYCFC returned state side to continue the preseason schedule taking part in the Carolina Challenge Cup. The C.C.C, a four team round robin preseason competition hosted by United Soccer Leauge Charlston Battery set to test the readiness of MLS, and USL teams alike.
The first and much awaited preseason friendly put MLS expansion teams to face off against one another for the first time. The game ran as a prequel to the first game of the regular season between these two teams. The much-needed dress rehearsal taught us more about the team. It became clear that the starting eleven was yet to be determined, as Coach Kreis continued to work out his lineup.
A standout during the match, first round draft pick Khiry Shelton was subbed in during the second half and went on to score the only goal for New York in the game. The skill demonstrated depicted that the young talent acquired during the draft had serious competitive potential. The behavior of the team also showed many positive signs of cohesion. Throughout the match there had been moments on the pitch where confrontation began to boil.
The support that players showed from one another when things got heated demonstrated that these men were in it together. The game ended a 1-1 draw, and subsequently a rivalry had been born. The second game of the C.C.C. (fourth total of the preseason) saw New York City face off against the established Huston Dynamo, resulting in an informative loss.
The issues with the defense began to emerge, as Huston had been able to apply sustained pressure on a lethargic NYCFC. The performance, however was not a complete loss, as development of an attack began to take shape. By applying pressure and utilizing smart passes along the wing New York was able to show their meddle, and score a goal in the 80th minute off the boot of United States international Mix Diskerud.
Though the match ended 2-1 in favor of the Dynamo, it served as a valuable tool in the development of the team. The final match of the preseason came up against USL representative The Charleston Battery. New York aimed to take this team seriously as they had proven a capable opponent having beaten Huston in the first match of the competition.
The result was the team’s most complete performance of the preseason as they posted a 3-0 clean sheet against the host side. Goals by veteran Ned Grabavoy, recently signed Adam Nemec, and possibly the most consistent player to date on the team Mix Diskerud, demonstrated that the teams personality, and performance is multifaceted.
The performance of New York City F.C. demonstrated that this team is more than just a recognizable designated player. They are composed of skill, they are composed of teamwork, and they will be a force this coming season.
In the end preseason is just that, the games are an introductory challenge, a developmental period where chemistry cultivates, and fitness is attained. Preparation is key to success in the inaugural season of The New York City Football Club. A look ahead shows us that this team is ready, and excited to march forth to this historic season. A season where for the first time 20 teams represent the United States in the worlds game. It is the season where New York City emerges.
For all intents, and purposes the upcoming franchise-unveiling, exposing, spotlight shining extravaganza will be epic. Know that the support base for Orlando City is strong for an expansion team with deep roots. They already hate us. Chanting, “Where is Lampard?” during our first game. Their supporter’s section held a sign mocking our home away from home Nevada Smiths, and lack of preseason away support.
Their social media front displayed the disparity between their lavish support, and our in stadium restrictions, mocking a team that has yet to find a true home. Expected attendance at the Orlando Citrus Bowl to be near 60,000. Character is built through adversity. Many will paint us as the evil empire, a reflection of our Yankees, and Manchester City linage. Remember Orlando holds 2 USL Championship trophies, as they are established.
Third Rail Members, and NYCFC Supporters came in droves to a mere announcement, before any plans, or groundwork had been laid out, before a player had been signed, before a ball had been kicked, before a symbol had been drawn we have been there. The passion is strong. Despite all of the doubt, and the hate this team, and these fans will be ready.